Governmental Affairs News

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring break

Lawmakers are currently in the middle of a legislative spring break. They will return for one day over the next two weeks and resume regular session the last week of April.

Another House Republicans offer $450 million for transportation

House Republicans offered a plan last week to shift $450 million to transportation projects each year beginning in 2015. The proposal would take a portion of the sales tax that currently goes into the state’s general fund plus permanently dedicate one-sixth of the revenue generated by the use tax.

This funding shift is expected to generate $500 million annually by 2018. While the plan raises less than half of the $1.2 billion Gov. Snyder requested for roads, it might be a more likely avenue for legislators than previous funding plans, since it uses existing money and does not require a tax or fee increase – a tough ask in an election year.

While viewed as a good first step towards a long-term solution, the Senate and Snyder administration are still reviewing the proposal and its impact on other aspects of the state budget. House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) said House Republicans hope to have a solution in place before the summer break. Michigan Retailers is encouraged to see a plan that will help improve transportation without increasing the state’s 6 percent sales tax.

Major ORC crime ring busted

A major shoplifting ring bust in Metro Detroit made headlines yesterday. Five individuals were caught running a sophisticated warehouse full of high-value stolen goods like cold medicine, antacids, other over-the-counter medicines, perfumes and lotions mostly taken from CVS, Walgreen’s and a Las Vegas Victoria’s Secret store.

Investigators believe three women are behind the actual shoplifting and stole $9,000-$15,000 of goods each day. The organized criminals were reselling the merchandise on the Internet through eBay, and other sites. Offenders have been charged with violations of the 2012 Organized Retail Crime Act, a law pushed by MRA that includes tougher penalties and fines designed to better protect the retail industry.

HICA shortfall may be addressed in budget

Senate Department of Community Health (DCH) appropriations subcommittee chair John Moolenaar (R-Midland) announced his intentions last week to include $115 million to cover the Health Insurance Claims Assessment (HICA) shortfall in the DCH budget. The Senate plans to use general fund dollars to fill the gap. Sen. Moolenaar, who recently announced plans to run for Congress in Michigan’s 4th District, said the subcommittee would report the DCH budget to the full Appropriations Committee when the Senate returns from break.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw) has been a vocal supporter of addressing the HICA fix and suggested one-time funds in a recent supplemental appropriations bill, which failed. The House and Gov. Snyder did not include HICA funding in their versions of the DCH budget. For more information about the HICA shortfall, please see previous coverage of the issue.

Filing deadlines coming up

Tuesday, April 22, is the filing deadline for all non-judicial candidates in Michigan. Federal, statewide, legislative and local candidates all must file by 4 p.m. that day to appear on the August 5 primary ballot. Following the announcements that Congressmen Mike Rogers and Dave Camp will not seek reelection, current and former lawmakers have been rushing to fill their seats. The suddenly open congressional seats have triggered a domino effect among previously set races, creating open state Senate and state House seats as lawmakers choose to leave their current office or pass up other opportunities in order to run for Congress.

The filing deadline is significant because legislators are careful to avoid taking a vote on an issue (like transportation funding and Main Street Fairness) that could be used against them in a primary. After the deadline passes, legislators who successfully avoided a primary may be willing to take some of the tough votes on issues they avoided before the deadline.

Legislative initiative ballot proposals (including the minimum-wage proposal) that will appear on the November general election ballot must file at least 258,088 valid signatures by May 28. Proposals that seek to amend the state constitution (the part-time legislature proposal and others) must file at least 322,609 valid signatures by July 7 to appear on the November 6 ballot.

With the legislature on break, there have been no bill introductions or committee meetings since our last report on March 28.

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